Category Archives: Opinion

Surviving Hurricane Irma: Part II

I’ve never felt so lucky.

When I woke up early Monday morning, I was surprised the storm had already passed. I was also surprised I managed to sleep through the worst of it. After anxiously awaiting what was being predicted to be the worst hurricane ever recorded, I guess my nerves were so shot they just needed sleep. Looking outside our friends’ apartment, you almost wouldn’t know a hurricane had just blown through. Sure, there was tree debris scattered about, but no trees down, no power lines down, no damage to any buildings as far as I could see. Their building hadn’t even lost power, which I was expecting at the height of the storm, around 1-2 am. They were high enough above sea level to experience no flooding, and protected enough to experience minimal damage from the winds.

But I knew my sleepy little town of Tarpon Springs would not be so easily missed. And I was right. Although my coworker called ahead to let me know he drove by my house and it looked unscathed, I really had no idea what I was going home to. The 40-minute drive home seemed to take forever; lights were out at major intersections and no one seemed to understand the rule of “treat it like a 4-way stop.” I anticipated accidents the whole way home. Huge trees were down all over the place; pockets of rain had pooled in various locations along the roadside. If things were this bad inland, I could only imagine how bad they were near the bayou where I lived. I pictured streets flooded up to front doors, and trees blown over, crushing anything in their path. I was hoping for the best and expecting the worst.

When we drove by our street, my heart definitely started pounding. Both entrances to our street were blocked off, so we couldn’t get close enough to see what was really going on. All we could see were trees everywhere, and no sign of our house. It was tucked back behind the trees, but we really couldn’t tell if it had been hit or not. When we pulled up and got out, the power company was already there. We spoke to one of the crew members; he told us they were securing the live wires and making it safe for the city to come back and clean things up (which they haven’t, but my neighbors got it done with their chainsaw; gotta love those reckless Floridians). We gave them a few hours, and then we drove back over and skirted our way through the debris to our front door. IMG_0665

I was in shock. Not one, but two trees had fallen from our yard. The one on the right I expected, because it was dead and constantly dropped branches on my car during any light wind or rain storm, so there was no way a hurricane wasn’t taking it out. But the beast of a tree on the left of our house, that thing was so solid I never would have pictured it coming down. Amidst all this disaster, our house was untouched. I couldn’t believe it. Not one branch hit the roof on its way down. There was no flooding in our house, no water damage that we would see. After witnessing accounts of homes destroyed on Irma’s path inland, I expected much more damage than this. I don’t know how we got so lucky, but I have never felt more grateful in all my life. I just wish the storm had instead taken out that annoying mango tree I hate so much (it’s stubbornly still standing, the only tree remaining in our front yard, the jerk).

But really, I know how lucky we got with our house, and our town, and ourselves. I know this storm should have been much worse; I know the damage should have been much worse. The most we got was some trees down and our power knocked out. We won’t go home until our A/C is back on and our fridge works again, but at least we have a home to return to. I know the power companies are working tirelessly to restore as many homes to normalcy as quickly as they can. Of course I would like mine to come back fast, but I can understand if it’s going to take awhile. Because damn, did we dodge a huge bullet.

I have no intentions of leaving Florida any time soon, but if the next hurricane that rolls up like this could wait another 50+ years or so, I’d appreciate it.

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Surviving Hurricane Irma: Part I

I don’t even know where to start with this one.

Even though there have been some serious gaps in my writing over the years (like, say, the last 8 months or so especially), I’ve never in my whole life of being a writer had this much difficulty getting words out on the page. I stumble and trip over my spoken words on a daily basis (my students probably question my teaching abilities, but hey, remember that time I scored the highest 6th grade ELA state test scores? Yeah, that’s what I thought), but when you put pen & paper in front of me, or a computer screen in this case, I usually have a pretty easy time of eloquently flowing my thoughts from my brain into concrete words and phrases. But I don’t quite know what to say at the moment.

In the eleven years I’ve lived in Florida, and made the Sunshine State my home, I’ve never had to experience anything like this. And it hasn’t even hit us yet. I’ve been lucky living here so far; most hurricanes sweep right past the Tampa Bay area, because we are protected in this little alcove off the western coast of the state that I swear is like a magical bubble that simply repels all horrible weather. Sure, we get some pretty severe rain and flooding during the summer months of our annual “hurricane season,” and yeah, we are considered the lightning capital of North America, so we get some pretty intense storms, but that is just typical South Florida weather that everyone who lives here endures. No one bats an eye at that type of weather because it comes and goes so often it isn’t worth fussing over. Even hurricanes that roll through usually drop to tropical storm conditions by the time sweet ‘ole Tampa gets the runoff. So this. Hurricane Irma. This is some next-level, zombie-apocalypse shit that I honestly never thought I would see. And it’s kind of terrifying.

When Harvey hit Houston, I was scared for my cousin who lives there. I was saddened when I saw the damage and destruction the storm caused. But I didn’t really understand the severity of the situation because seeing something on the internet, watching news clips of what it’s like isn’t the same as experiencing it for yourself. So while I tried to imagine what those people were going through (and still are, trying to repair their towns and salvage what remains of their homes), I can’t say I know what it feels like. Until now.

Unlike many Floridians across the peninsula, Kevin and I decided not to evacuate the IMG_0634state. We do live in the highest evacuation zone for flooding, so we did peace out, but we simply drove inland to our friends’ who live in higher ground, outside of any evac zones. I made the last minute decision to board up our house, because I just couldn’t stand the idea of doing nothing and then leaving our home to fend for itself. While we don’t own it, I would very much like to have something to return to when this is all said and done. My mom and stepdad helped us buy the wood and hastily install it; we did the same for their home. Schools were closed at this point, so I had plenty of time on my hands over the last several days to stock up, and prepare the house, and slowly start to panic and let the anxiety creep in. We planned to leave Sunday morning for Lutz, but that panic crept in further, and I made Kevin haul ass out of there Saturday night. While I feel better knowing we are tucked away from the storm surge that is sure to wash away our town, the anxiety and nervousness continues to eat away slowly at me. Nothing like having a week to wait for a day’s worth of torrential downpour and gale force winds. Hurry up, Irma, let’s get this over with.

As of now, we are safe. The wind has picked up, and it’s raining like any summer downpour. But I know it will get worse. The worst of it will hit late tonight when most people are sound asleep, but I know we won’t be. Or at least, I won’t be. I brought a stack of books to distract me, but even my favorite pastime can’t keep my mind of this monster coming for us. Without knowing what will truly happen, I can only picture the worst case scenario. I can only picture our house being washed away from the 10-foot storm surge. Or at the very least, being completely water-logged once we return. If we can return. The Pinellas County sheriff has closed the county, permitting no one to return to their homes until they’ve completely assessed all damage and give the go-ahead. This makes me believe they anticipate the worst. The uncertainty and waiting will surely kill me before the wind and floods do, that’s for sure.

I know homes can be rebuilt. I know personal effects can be replaced, and what is most important is being alive. I know I am better off than others; the devastation in the islands is terrifying and I couldn’t imagine living through that. I won’t pretend this is the worst thing that could ever happen, but I won’t minimize my fears and anxieties. I know my family is all safe at the moment, but being separated is hard. I hope Frank the cat makes it, and I hope we made the right decision by letting him fend for himself. There are so many what ifs right now, I just wish I had the capacity to tune it all out like everyone around me is seeming to do.

This blog has always been my outlet, even when I’ve neglected to write, so just getting this out on the page makes me feel a tiny bit better. If you’re going through this with me, comment and tell me what you’re doing to keep your sanity during this waiting game. If you aren’t in full-on survival mode, please keep this state in your thoughts and hope we make it out the other side. There may be a Part II, or Part III, depending on power/wifi capabilities in the next 24-48 hours, and depending on my ability to function like a normal human with actual thoughts and expressions other than “WHAT THE F*CK.”

At least Felix seems to be enjoying her new home away from home.

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Hey Mr. President, I’mma do me

I just want to make a quick comment about this election. First of all, no, I didn’t vote. I didn’t like my choices enough to vote one way or another, and I don’t believe in voting for the sake of voting. Voting for one candidate because you don’t want the other candidate to win doesn’t make sense to me. But this post isn’t about why I don’t vote (this post, however, is). I can say that if I had voted, I probably would have voted for Hillary, simply because I think she would have done a far better job of actually running the country than that other buffoon (who I still can’t believe was even an option in the first place).

That being said, I know many people are outraged by the outcome of this election. But I have to remind myself at the end of the day that, even though we all have to follow rules and regulations of this country as determined by the federal government (which includes the president), I still get to live my life on a day to day basis and determine how I’m going to act. That includes being a good person, being a positive role model to my students, being a good sister, and a good girlfriend, and a good daughter, and a good friend to all of the people that matter in my life. Even just being a good person overall, morally and ethically, being kind to strangers and being forgiving when it’s due. Accepting and understanding that we are all human, which means we are all flawed. And that’s okay.

This is what truly matters at the end of the day, and I’m not going to change who I am and how I live my life simply by who is holding office in that big white house. And you shouldn’t either. Yeah, it sucks how ridiculous and absurd this election has been from the start, and yeah, the results are even more laughable. And yeah, I’m sure certain things in our lives will be affected and will change at some point when those new laws are passed, and the whole country might go to shit one day because the guy running it can’t even figure out how to buy a proper hair piece. But the only thing that really matters to me at the end of the day is continuing to live my life the way that I do, trying every day to do whatever I can for my family and friends and those around me. Because if you think about our nation’s history, we’ve been through a lot worse. We can overcome these new obstacles because we find new ways to triumph when times get tough. Overall, our nation is filled with brilliant people of all walks of life, people who can think outside of the box and can take situations that may not be favorable and make them into something better. So yes, while I remain stupefied and shocked and angered and (most of all) disappointed that so many of my fellow Americans voted for such an idiot, I’m not worried about the fate of our country. That seems a bit extreme. We still live in one of the greatest countries in the world; we’re not living in a third world country, I don’t feel scared for my life when I leave my house everyday or even when I come home at night. I get to go to my job everyday, work hard making a difference in the lives of young minds, and come home to a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and the relaxing atmosphere of being at home in my own safe space. A lot of people don’t have that, even in this country, so I’m grateful for the things that I do have in my life.

I’m trying to be more positive overall in my life, and that includes this situation right here. I could very easily jump on the bandwagon with all the haters and just be bitter and spew filth from my mouth. But instead I’m going to try and look at it in a positive light, because getting angry over something that I have zero power to change is pointless (because, after all, the election is over now, we had our chance and this is what most of us wanted, apparently). At the end of the day, our country has been through a lot worse. This is not the end of the world. Because, one way or another, we will come out the other side of all of this. We may be different when we reemerge, but we’ll still be intact. Life isn’t perfect, but we can all still find ways to make it wonderful, regardless of who’s in the oval office.

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If I was into the whole “New Year’s Resolution” thing, this just might be mine

This is my first post of the new year, but it’s by no means one of those “new year, new me” inspirational-type posts people get crazy and write at the beginning of a new year. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, and I plan on being the same mediocre writer this year as I was last year and years’ past.

That just came off super pessimistic, and I didn’t really intend it to. I just sometimes wonder why I can’t be a more dedicated writer. After all, after putting minimal thought into what I’m about to say next, I’ve realized that I’m not really “great” at any one particular thing, except maybe writing. I’m good at a lot of different things, and that’s cool. It’s what has made me so versatile over the years, and probably what’s also made me feel like I’ve never really fit into one specific type of “person” category (whether that’s a positive thing or not, I’m not really sure). I’m blessed with the natural ability to dance and move my body in a way that isn’t awkward or terrifying to the people around me, but I would very likely lose to someone else in a dance-off. Mainly because I repeat the same dozen dance moves over and over, and tend to incorporate a lot of head bobbing and face making into my improv routine. I’d like to think doing that makes me look like a female version of Ne-Yo, but more than likely I just end up looking like this:

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I also have the natural inclination of being musically-talented; though never formally trained, I inherited a good set of pipes from my mother, and the ability to, like the rest of my family, play the guitar in a good-enough manner to resemble music. But I never had the range of both my mom and my sister to hit the high notes, and my guitar-strumming abilities are limited to the 10 or so main chords that make up any basic hit (but I guess that’s mainly my fault because I refuse to learn bar chords or anything that has to do with Bm). I’m good at yoga, but don’t do it frequently enough to call myself a yogi. I’m naturally athletic (enough to the point that I shocked all of Kevin’s colleagues on our co-ed softball team when I was able to proficiently catch, throw, hit, and run the bases during our intramural games; I honestly didn’t think catching a softball and throwing it to the next baseman was all that difficult, but apparently a lot of women can’t do it), but I haven’t been faithful as an athlete to any one particular sport since I played soccer in high school 10 years ago. As far as hobbies go, I’ve never really stuck with anything long enough to become skilled at it. I usually try it, get good enough to where I can perform above a beginner’s level, and consider it mastered. I’ve always been difficult to please, and it isn’t necessarily that I get bored with things easily, I just want to try so many different things I don’t feel there’s enough time to stick with one thing for a prolonged period of time. Except for writing.

For me, writing has always been the one go-to that I was just naturally born talented at (at least I think I am; people tell me I have a way with stringing groups of words together, but who can really say?). Maybe that’s why I neglect it so much more than I should. In a way, I’m probably taking it for granted, just assuming my talents will always be there no matter what. Because really, just like anything else, if I don’t hone my craft, it will probably just wither away, won’t it? Like an ill-watered houseplant, so desperate for a drink it’s willing to sacrifice its beautiful leaves in a last ditch effort to preserve its roots, its soul.

See? I can totally write things.

As I said before, I don’t make resolutions. I think it’s good to have goals, but resolutions seem too fleeting, like, the moment you achieve it, you will give yourself a nice pat on the back and revert to your old ways. I also don’t like the idea of using a new year as an excuse to stop being one way and start being another. If you want to make a change in your life, just fucking do it.

Therefore, I’m not going to make any resolutions for 2016. But I will say that I’d like to try to be more dedicated to my craft, because writing is basically all I’m really great at. And I’m okay with that. But if I don’t stop ignoring what I was pretty much put on this earth to do, I might not be able to do it well anymore. And that would be a tragedy. So hopefully for you, my faithful followers, you’ll be hearing a lot more from me this year than you did last year.

Who knows, maybe I’ll become so dedicated to my writing in 2016 that I’ll actually finish my novel and get it published, and my non-resolution this time next year will be writing a follow-up, or better yet, retiring early.

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It’s sort of incredibly depressing being a full-blown adult (at least as far as Halloween’s concerned)

Being a “real teacher” now, with all the real responsibilities that go with it, is pretty fantastic. But it’s also slightly depressing and incredibly stressful. I wouldn’t mind so much any other time of year except for now, being a 1/4 of the way through the school year, in the thick of it, and being smack dab in the middle of my favorite month of the year. And barely having the time to plan a fabulous Halloween party, or attend all the haunted houses in my general vicinity, or find the perfect ensemble for Kevin and my Beetlejuice/Lydia costume (and also being too brain-fried to know if I even just worded that correctly. Kevin and my? Kevin and mine? Kevin’s and my? I don’t even care anymore).

Even though our house is finally decked out in all its creepiness (and the neighbors probably think we are psychos, which we might just be), and even though we have already attended several haunted attractions, and even though we have done the annual corn maze & pumpkin picking, I still feel like this holiday, my holiday, the best time of the year, is slipping out of my grasp. And fast. We’re already 15 days into October? Um, excuse me, when did that even happen? I wish I could just press the pause button on this month until I have a chance to catch up on all the things I wait 11 months out of the year for. Ugh.

Since I’m basically too busy/exhausted/apathetic to write anymore, I can say with 98% certainty that I won’t be publishing any sort of horror movie marathon list this year. So for those of you who have any interest, please refer to years’ past here, here and here.

And for those of you who don’t care, don’t like scary movies or are just too lazy to click an external link, here are some pictures of our “murder house” for you to delight your senses with. Happy Haunting. photo 3

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